Maybe you like hitting the gym after a long day at work, letting all of the stress out in the weight room. Or perhaps you love pumping iron first thing in the morning, getting a massive pump and feeling energized before anyone else is even awake. It doesn’t really matter what time you workout, as long as you DO workout… right?
This is one of the most common questions we get, both online and in the gym: Does the time that you workout really matter much for growing muscle? Are there really benefits to lifting early in the morning, before even eating? Or would it be better to wait until after work, when your body has had the chance to warm up and process a meal or two?
Just like with many of the questions that come up regarding bodybuilding, the answer isn’t as simple as you might think. There have been numerous studies done on the benefits of either working out in the morning or evening. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and much of it is going to boil down to your own personal preferences.
If you dig around long enough, you’ll be able to find a study that supports either option. But what it’s really going to depend on is your own preferences and schedule. If your main goal is to get jacked, there are plenty of perks to working out either in the morning OR evening, but the biggest benefits are centered more around your schedule and work habits.
One of the biggest benefits to working out first thing in the morning is that you tend to get more workouts in, more consistently, each week. The cumulative effect of consistent workouts can lead to bigger gains.
Many people that workout after work often find something popping up to get in the way of their scheduled gym time. This can be anything from the boss asking you to stay a few minutes late, to getting an invite from someone for a couple of drinks. Chances are, if something unexpected is going to get in your way, it’s more likely to come in the afternoon or evening.
This isn’t to say that morning workouts are the undisputed winner of this contest. One of the biggest disadvantages of morning workouts is that you may not be properly fueled to go all-out. Many people tend to skip breakfast, and working out on an empty stomach can slow your progress. You can be lacking in energy, and if your body doesn’t have the available calories to burn to fuel your workout, it’s possible that it will start burning through muscle.
By working out in the afternoon or evening, it’s less likely that you’ll be running on empty. By the time you get off work, you’ve probably had at least two meals, and your body is warmed up and ready to go.
With an evening workout, you also don’t have to worry about waking up before the crack of dawn and risk sleeping through your alarm. You may have an issue with your workout affecting your sleep, though, especially if you take a pre-workout with caffeine.
If you’re working out too late, this could affect your circadian rhythms and make it difficult to fall asleep. This can hind the your muscular development, as a big portion of the growth is done while sleeping. If you find yourself unable to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night with an afternoon or evening workout, consider switching to the morning.
What it all really boils down to is your own ability to maintain consistency, get the proper nutrients and rest/recovery time while ensuring the right amount of training intensity.
When looking at what time of day is best to workout, you should select a time period that allows you to perform best in each of those factors. If you’re an early-bird that’s in bed by 8pm and up before the sun naturally, then working out in the morning is probably your best bet.
On the other hand, if you can’t stand the thought of getting up before the absolute last minute that you have to, and you tend to stay up late anyway, then stick with an evening workout. Balance all of these factors out before making a decision, and don’t be afraid to switch it up.
Also, keep in mind that going against your body’s own nature can have detrimental effects, and prevent you from building the muscle you want. If you naturally have more energy in the evenings, but are forcing yourself to workout in the mornings to fit into your schedule, this can over-stress your body and leave you feeling burned out, along with slowing your muscle growth.
Although all of these factors play a role in building muscle, the most important part is consistency, and finding a rhythm for that works for you and your body. It doesn’t matter how much energy you have in the evening after work if you’re constantly getting side tracked with work and social obligations and end up missing your training sessions.
Likewise, if you’re always feeling slow and sluggish in the morning but still manage to hit the gym 5 days a week before work, you’re going to see improvements. Whatever you decide, stick with it after taking all of this into consideration, and you’re guaranteed to see results.
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